Will you not revive us again?

‘Will you not revive us again? (Psalm 85:6)

Psalm 85 fits appropriately into the times of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.

[] The testimony of ‘restored’ exiles (Psalm 85:1-3)

Note the reference to ‘your land’ (1) which had lain fallow and untilled while Israel lived in exile in Babylon for seven decades. The verbs in this opening paragraph are all in the past tense:

‘were favourable…restored…forgave…covered…withdrew…turned’

because the land’s ‘fortunes’ had been ‘restored’ after the farmers had been led home again by Zerubbabel to their land. However, in the days of Haggai the land had failed to produce harvests because those who returned had neglected the rebuilding of God’s house, the temple (Haggai 1:1 – 2:23). Hence:

[] Prayer that the Lord would ‘restore us again…revive us again (Psalm 85: 4-7)

By ‘reviving’ and ‘restoration’ the psalmist implies more than bumper crops of cereals and fruit. This stanza of the song starts and ends with mention of God’s ‘salvation’; the writer desires that he and his people be saved from repeating the ‘iniquity’ and ‘sin’ of their fathers (2), indeed to be saved from themselves and their tendency to incite God’s ‘wrath’, ‘anger’ and ‘indignation’ (3-4).

[] Their resolve to hear and fear the Lord (Psalm 85:8-9)

In the official Jewish Greek translation the psalmist here makes a personal commitment: ‘Let me [English Standard Version] hear what God the Lord will speak (through his prophets), ‘for he will speak peace to his people, his saints’ – and not just to me. The writer highlights two wonderful characteristics of ‘revival’:

  • personal experience of joy ‘that your people may rejoice in you’ (6b) – those who have been touched by the Spirit of God in seasons of visitation have testified to deep grieving over sins and failure in true repentance (‘let them not turn back to folly’, 8c) resulting in exhilarating joy; and
  • (ii) public exhibition of glory (‘that your glory may dwell in our land’,9b), when the presence of the Lord pervades the whole locality in which the revived saints meet to pray and praise and testify.

[] Communion with an open heaven (Psalm 85:10-13) 

* God’s ‘steadfast love (7a,10a) and faithfulness’ from those grounded on earth (10a, 11a) ‘meet’:

* ‘righteousness’ that ‘looks down from the sky’ (as much needed rain, 11b) ‘and peace’ (experienced below, Zechariah 9:10; Haggai 2:9) ‘kiss each other’ on meeting (10b).

* ‘Yes, the Lord will give [from heaven] what is good, and our land will yield its increase’ 12). And, because God’s people repented, ‘Righteousness will go [at ease] before him and make his footsteps a way.’ It was thus that John the Baptist bade God’s people to:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’ (Matthew 3:2-3).

A message we would do well to heed!

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